Twisted Metal has been a confusing experience so far, but one I can’t say I’ve regretting being witness to. Thanks to early access to a handful of early episodes in this 10-episode season, I’ve been able to finally see for myself just what is going on in this TV adaptation of a video game series that I’d never have pegged as something needing a TV adaptation.
It’s a show that, at least in the context of the initial three episodes that we’ve had access to, is entertaining in a very aggravating way, not in a so-bad-it’s-good but more of an I’m-not-convinced-anyone-involved-cares-if-it’s-good kind of way. Normally that’d feel like a total cop-out, but Twisted Metal seems so earnest in its own disinterest that I can’t help but watch. Every member of the cast comes off as keenly aware that they’re not involved in a project with a ton of merit, delivering performances that scream “this was easy money” and being all the more fun for it.
I had middling hopes for Twisted Metal’s depiction of the kinds of vehicular carnage one would expect of a series based entirely on video games about vehicular carnage. All it really needed was some in-car shots of Anthony Mackie and his foes spouting quippy one-liners cut between explosive driving and shooting with video game-like framing and direction to be competent. And, well, so far it’s hard to judge the success on this front as the show barely delivers very few of the expected car combat sequences between its first three episodes.
If anything, I’ve mostly been interested in the absolutely batshit scenarios that have been cooked up for some of the show’s characters, including the iconic Sweet Tooth’s obsession with stage performance that sees him put on a retelling of the in-room entertainment of the hotel he’s made a home base. The depiction of Twisted Metal’s recognisable killer clown, split between Will Arnett’s dulcet tones and former two-time AEW TNT Champion Samoa Joe’s physical presence, is actually an early highlight and I’m definitely drawn to any and every Sweet Tooth-centric scene so far.
As for the rest of the cast? So far, eh. Mackie does an okay enough job as a vehicle (heh) to the more out-of-the-ordinary characters, and Stephanie Beatriz (whom I adore) spends the vast majority of the first two episodes completely bereft of dialogue for story reasons but definitely comes into her own given the chance to channel her inner Rosa Diaz. Most of the B-plots involving regular, non-driving characters (the show sets up a very rigid societal separation between people living somewhat safely inside walled communities and those that must live life on the road) are a bit pedestrian, at least so far, so the best we can hope for is for later episodes to move those less interesting arcs aside in favour of more of what works, like the pairing of John and Quiet, and what it’s clearly more interested in – toilet humour and explosions.
I will say I do appreciate the choice to base the show’s version of real-world events on a Y2K event having actually happened, turning its backdrops into a post-apocalyptic memorial to the late 90s. It’s a set up for some pretty cheesy nods to the franchise’s history, like a moment in the very first episode where a copy of Twisted Metal for the PS1 lands on John Doe’s windshield as he tears through a neon and pastel-drenched shopping mall, but it also makes for some genuinely fun musical choices. Like an episode three scene depicting said technological apocalypse with looting, rioting and misfired nuclear warheads destroying an idyllic America to the tune of the 1999 Len banger, “Steal My Sunshine,” even if a later use of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” as auditory torture exemplifies the show’s consistently-cheap sense of humour.
The decision to release Twisted Metal as a single, bingeable drop is smart. A weekly episode release schedule would not be the right fit for this show. After watching the first three episodes back-to-back I can say with certainty that I’d have continued bingeing the full thing as a backdrop to working or gaming, but I haven’t exactly been hanging out since for the full thing to drop.
Luckily, it’s all close to being out there. Twisted Metal premieres its run of ten, half-hour episodes on July 27th. For Aussies, it’ll be available to watch through Stan. I honestly have no idea how I’m going to feel about this thing by the time it’s all over, but I think I’m still game to fuck around and find out.